Zhang happy with fall progression
Although it is not over yet, the fall season for the Rutgers tennis team has left a good taste in the mouths of both its players and fans.
At this past weekend's United States Tennis Association Invitational, sophomore Leonora Slatnick reached the finals in her singles flight, four other Knights reached the semifinals in their flights and junior Amy Zhang and sophomore Jennifer Holzberg lit up the stage earlier this fall at the Brown Invitational.
Zhang could not be happier with the team's performance thus far.
"I think, compared to how our team did at Brown last year and at the USTA Invitational last year, I think we have an even stronger team this year," she said.
Head coach Ben Bucca agreed with Zhang and said that all the hard work the Scarlet Knights have put in has shown.
"I think the team has practiced really hard, showed a really strong work ethic and I believe that hard work really paid off this weekend at the USTA," he said.
Yet that does not mean the Knights believe they have nothing to work on, Zhang said. They were not happy with their doubles performances this past weekend.
Last spring, RU set a goal to win around 75 percent of their doubles matches, which they have done, but they went 6-6 at the USTA Invitational, which Zhang said is not where they wanted to be.
"We want that to be higher," she said. "A lot of that is just working more on doubles, working with our new doubles partners and working on being aggressive at the net."
If there was anything from both the USTA and Brown Invitationals that Zhang thinks would help the team get its doubles play back on track, it would be confidence.
She especially wants freshman Michelle Green's huge performance this past weekend, in which she got to the semifinals of her singles flight, to give her a confidence boost that carries over into the upcoming matches.
Another thing that Zhang said will help the team improve heading into next week's ITA Regionals is competition against other teams.
"We can practice that and play with each other and pretend it's a real match all we want, but it's not the same as a real competition," Zhang said. "I think having real competition experience under our belts from the fall helps us to compete better."
RU gets that opportunity to compete against Columbia Tuesday in a scrimmage.
Bucca also said that it is imperative for the team to stay healthy on its way to Regionals.
"If we go in healthy and rested, we've done the necessary work this fall for our players to really play some great tennis," he said.
It is that great tennis that Bucca said laid a solid foundation for the team continuing success.
"We really had a breakout season last year, and I think what this fall has done is given the team the confidence that we were not just a one season fluke," he said.